Children and adults alike need iron in order to stay strong and healthy.
Iron helps red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body. It also plays a vital role in both brain and muscle function. Low iron, or a lack of iron, in the blood can lead to iron-deficiency anemia which is a common nutritional condition in young children.
Do you suspect that you child may have an iron deficiency? This article details what iron deficiency is and how to tell if your child suffers from low iron.
What is Low Iron?
All the red blood cells in the body contain iron in their hemoglobin, the protein that carries our oxygen to our body’s tissues from the lungs.
Iron is what gives hemoglobin its strength to bind to oxygen in the blood, ensuring the oxygen gets to where it needs to go.
Children who have low iron or are iron deficient aren’t getting enough iron in their diets. What this means is that the body cannot make hemoglobin, causing it to make fewer red blood cells.
This causes the condition known as anemia. When a child suffers from anemia, less oxygen can reach the cells and tissues and it affects how the child’s body works.
Iron plays a vital role in muscle function, brain development and energy creation. A child with low iron may have learning and behavior problems.
In general, infants in developed countries don’t tend to have issues with low iron. During the infant stage, babies get the iron they need from breastmilk or formula that is fortified with iron.
We start to see low iron problems as children move into toddlerhood. Children who drink too much cow’s milk or don’t eat enough iron rich foods such as red meat and leafy vegetables are at risk for anemia.
Cow’s milk is not a good source of iron, to the contrary, it actually makes it harder for the body to absorb iron. Children who eat a vegetarian diet are also at risk for low iron because they are lacking the strong iron source that red meat provides.
As children become teenagers, there are new causes of low iron. For boys, they may suffer anemia due to the rapid growth that happens during puberty.
For girls, their bodies can’t store as much iron and they lose blood during menstruation.
The following are common symptoms of anemia that can help you determine if your child suffers from low iron:
-Weakness or tiredness
-Pale skin, particularly around the hands, eyelids and nails
-Dizziness or lightheadedness
-Change in attitude or irritability
Its important to understand that iron deficiency happens over time. At first, the amount of iron in the body decreases and the child begins to have an iron deficiency where their muscle and brain functions can be affected.
In time, as the iron in the body is used up, the child’s body starts to make fewer red blood cells and they become anemic.
Your child’s doctor should test their iron and hemoglobin periodically to ensure that their levels are appropriate. In the meantime, these tips should help you determine how to tell if your child suffers from low iron.
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